Pause for thought: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled..'
Jesus instructs his disciples: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid (Jn 14:27).’
Coming from anyone else, these words might sound like an empty platitude—the first century equivalent of ‘don’t worry, be happy!’ They are the kind of words that we are tempted to offer when we feel powerless to actually alleviate someone of their troubles.
But Jesus is not so powerless. His instruction—‘do not let your hearts be troubled’—is inseparable from his promise: ‘peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.’
The peace of which Jesus speaks is not the elimination of all pain and difficulty from our lives. Indeed, Jesus’ own crucifixion prevents us from thinking of the peace of Christ as a perpetually happy state of affairs. But neither is Jesus simply inviting us to ‘always look on the bright side of life’ (to quote Monty Python). The peace of Christ is not a feeling that we stir up in ourselves through the power of positive thinking. It is something real, something objective. It is a gift that we receive from Christ. In fact, it is the gift of Christ himself.
‘I do not give to you as the world gives,’ Jesus assures us. In other words, this gift is not something fleeting or vulnerable. It is not constantly under threat, and it does not change with our circumstances. It is a fixed point, an unshakeable possession. Jesus ushers us into the loving relationship that he always enjoys with his heavenly Father. And as St Paul assures us, ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom 8:38-39).
Revd Dr Jordan Hillebert